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Blair Delivers Strong Warning to Taleban - 2001-10-02

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned Afghanistan's ruling Taleban that a military attack is planned unless it surrenders suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. The speech before Britain's Labor Party conference was widely anticipated.

Prime Minister Blair's message to the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan could not have been more blunt: either deliver Osama bin Laden or face military attack.

"The aim will be to eliminate their military hardware, cut off their finances, disrupt their supplies, target their troops, not civilians. We will put a trap around the regime," the prime minister said. "And I say to the Taleban, surrender the terrorists or surrender power. That is your choice."

The United States and Britain say Osama bin Laden is the suspected leader behind terrorist attacks in America last month that left more than 6,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead.

Osama bin Laden has denied involvement, and the Taleban have rejected demands to hand him over.

Prime Minister Blair told a Labor Party conference in Brighton that the West has no quarrel with the Afghan people and stands ready to help rebuild a post-Taleban Afghanistan.

"To the Afghan people, we make this commitment: the conflict will not be the end. We will not walk away as the outside world has done so many times before there," Mr. Blair said. "If the Taleban regime changes, we will work with you to make sure its successor is one that is broad-based, that unites all ethnic groups and that offers some way out of the miserable poverty that is your present existence."

Aides to the prime minister had said before the speech that he would announce that time had run out for the Taleban to avoid attack. However, in the end the Blair speech did not say that attack is inevitable and there was no indication about when military action might begin.